Faith: Utopia and Real Life
By Vidar Ligard
The life of faith is sometimes misunderstood as a utopian dream where there are only victories, as going “from glory to glory”, and never having any challenges. However, the faith life is not a life absent of challenges. If it were, then Abraham, Moses, David, Paul, and even Jesus did not live by faith.
Faith in the Bible
Abraham’s faith was challenged by God. He was told to sacrifice the one thing he had believed God for.
Moses’ faith was tested over and over again, as he stood before Pharaoh and commanded him to let God’s people go.
Paul had to give up all of what he had been trained for as a Pharisee in order to really serve the Lord. When he did give up his influence and education in pursuit of the Lord and in spreading His message, he faced many hardships. He wrote:
[W]ith far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. (2 Cor 11:23-28)
That hardly sounds like a life of ease! Yet this is the same man who wrote “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”
Jesus said it best.
He said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Paul wrote that Jesus, “for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus went through troubles, but He despised them, or thought nothing of them, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father, in complete and total victory.
So we can see, the “life of faith” isn’t free of obstacles or challenges.
Rather, the life of faith is a lifestyle in which one trusts God in the midst of challenges, believes that what He says is true, and actively expects supernatural interventions to overcome against all natural odds.
Recently, my wife and I faced a long string of discouraging events over just a few days.
We had just moved to the mission field full-time. We had a rent house back in America, and the tenants put in notice of leaving just prior to our move. They had lived in the home for several years, and the house would need not only cleaning, but repairs and updates as well. We needed to remodel the home and find new tenants, from a different continent, in a different time zone. Not only that, we were not able to meet any of the people we were doing business with. In fact, we had to do all of the work through other people in the area, including find new tenants. While we had all of this going on in the States, we were having to adjust ourselves and our family to our new lives on the mission field!
That was enough to handle, but the challenges did not end there. We had several issues within our own ministry as well. One of our key support staff quit. Another team member was caught in immoral behavior, and we ultimately had to part ways with them. Not only were we having issues with our team, we had financial reports landing on our desk, showing that our income was less than what was needed in order to operate.
On top of all of these things, we received some tragic news. A good friend of ours lost his wife and baby in childbirth, and he was left alone to care for their newborn son. A friend on another continent took his life, leaving behind his wife and four children at home.
It may seem unreal, but we actually had all of this happen in a short time frame, and had to deal with it all almost simultaneously.
Situations like these can be extremely discouraging. It seemed as though the bad news would not stop. Yet, while the emotions and feelings were present, I knew that we serve a God that is bigger than any circumstances. I knew that God’s call for us didn’t change because of circumstances. I knew that external events do not tell me whether or not I am out of the will of God.
Instead of worrying, I started counting God as faithful to His promises.
David said, “even if I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” (Ps 23) For “His rod and staff will comfort me.” The God I serve is the One who “prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies.” He is the One who causes us to lie down in green pastures. And God never changes. If He would do that for David, He would do that for me.
Still, it takes discipline to refuse to focus on circumstances. It takes discipline to put our attention on the promises instead of what’s in front of us. King David learned the secret of this. When the Amalekites had taken everyone in his town captive, and David had lost even the women and children, his followers spoke of stoning him. And what was David’s response? He encouraged himself in the Lord.
It is in difficult times that the faith life takes a different course than other lifestyles. Faith will cause us to rise above the circumstances, get encouraged in the presence of the Lord, and trust Him to deliver us out of any difficulty we might face.
Faith is no utopian or idealistic, trouble-free life. But God will deliver the person who trusts in Him.